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Employment connection

At the tenth annual Job Fair, sponsored by Madera County Workforce Assistance Center, an estimated 120 job seekers took the opportunity to spend last Thursday afternoon at the Oakhurst Community Center, completing applications, dropping off resumes, and chatting with representatives from area employers — most looking to hire.

“We had another successful job fair this year,” Workforce Business and Career Specialist Jorge Espinosa said. “Almost all employers had immediate job openings. This is a clear indication of of a trend toward an improving economy in our area. Job seekers had the opportunity to interact with businesses, complete applications and in some cases, were able to apply online at the event.”

Employers eager to greet enthusiastic applicants included Tenaya Lodge, which needs to hire 100 people within the next two weeks; Delaware North, with hundreds of openings for positions ranging from food/beverage, to groundskeepers, to transportation drivers. Sugar Pine Christian Camp is hiring seasonal workers for the kitchen, cafe, retail, and housekeeping. Sierra Tel has four current openings - network engineer, auto shop mechanic, warehouse technician trainee, and customer service associate. Camarena Health has a number of available positions, including management, administration, medical assistant and billing. Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad needs food workers, bookstore/sales clerk, grounds maintenance and museum attendant.

A Workforce partner agency, Rian Watts, the local veterans employment representative with the state’s Employment Development Department, offered attendees information on filing for unemployment benefits, and also made brochures available covering Veteran Services.

To have multiple employers and resources gathered in one location was helpful for Mountain Area residents, who are having a tough time finding work.

Jamie Donner, 24, was attending school in Ventura County, before moving to North Fork to help her father. She has a background in banking, and was looking to get her foot in the door in customer service. Ron Aya, also of North Fork, found himself unemployed last October, when Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino closed. A cage cashier, Aya had worked there more than four years. He said he had planned on working there until retirement age, but now must look for work again. Aya applied at the Pines for a front desk position, and will be interviewing at Wawona for seasonal front desk work. Another casino casualty, Joel Keller, 36, of Oakhurst, applied online for a warehouse position with Sierra Tel. He was a shipping/receiving clerk for Chukchansi for five years.

Joseph Mellon of Oakhurst hasn’t worked since September 2014, when he lost his job. Until now, he’s been helping out at home with his children, but said it’s time to get back to work. He applied for restaurant positions. Christine Hayes, 56, also of Oakhurst, hasn’t worked for two years. She can’t afford to retire, and can’t afford medical coverage. She and her husband relocated to the Mountain Area from Seattle because of family. She’s looking for office work, particularly in law enforcement.

“This was our first year attending the Job Fair, and it was a very positive experience,” Lisa Morin, Sierra Tel employment coordinator said. “I can see us doing more of these in the future. It was a good chance to meet interested applicants, who stopped by our booth to check on openings, or sit at the computer to apply online.” She reminded job seekers that they have until March 27 to submit their applications (see sierratel.com/employment).

The Workforce Assistance Center, located at 40325 Highway 41 in Oakhurst, as well as the main office located in Madera at 441 E. Yosemite Avenue, assists workers through retraining and job placement. Services include job skills assessment and development, career coaching, vocational and On-the Job training, services to individuals with disabilities, as well as assistance in obtaining a GED.

After the Oakhurst hours were reduced for about 18 months, the office is again open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Oakhurst's Workforce office is located in the Department of Social Services building. Business and Career Specialist Jasna Hendershott can be reached at (559) 683-6263 ext. 207.

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has provided the Madera County Workforce Investment Board a $500,000 grant to assist those casino workers who lost their jobs. It is estimated that about 600 of impacted workers are residents of Madera County, and of that number, 250 reside in Eastern Madera County.

The Madera County Workforce Assistance Center expressed their appreciation to Vons, Raley’s and Starbucks for their contributions to the Oakhurst event; and to two Madera employers (A-1 Trucking and Freight, Inc., and Mosqueda Farm Labor, Inc.), who made monetary donations to both the Oakhurst and Madera event.

Workforce will host another Job Fair in Madera, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 8, at the Madera District Fair Hatfield Hall, 1850 Cleveland Avenue.

Job seekers can visit maderaworkforce.org for additional information.

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